Thoughts From the Couch – Finding our way home through poetry

Whether working in individual, couples or group therapy I see no two persons as the same. Research shows that neither the minds nor the bodies of two people work in exactly the same way and that we all learn differently. Over the years, I have learnt to be flexible enough to form a different relationship with each of my clients, no matter what they bring. Since no two brains function identically, we as therapists are called to be curious about the sensory strengths of our clients and in doing that, explore being creative. Creative experiences within the therapeutic relationship can enable authentic self expression for those clients who show creative qualities and help form a link between our deep internal world and the revelations of our outer experience.

The healing effect of words has long been recognized and creativity, within my practice, allows for words to be expressed in many different forms. I have had a lifelong love of poetry, and its powerful, healing qualities have been well documented. As a child, I used to write poetry as a way of expressing emotions that otherwise felt too hard to verbally acknowledge or felt too threatening to do in a direct way. With no one to talk to, I could visit my poems and connect with a part of my being that no one saw and that, in itself, felt like a lifeline as I struggled to hold on to myself.

As I have grown and changed as a therapist, poetry has been a constant companion for me. As both reading and writing poetry engage our senses along with our emotions, doors to our inner worlds can be opened, thus allowing for the exploration of a landscape that has previously been hidden. In therapy, we can read a poem and it can feel as if it is speaking directly to, or, about us. As a result, it can stop us feeling alone with our secrets, and any shame lifts, as we connect to another human through their creative expression, that magically says what we have longed to share. Aberjhani in his book – Splendid Literarium: A Treasury of Stories, Aphorisms, Poems and Essays, states :“Poetry empowers the simplest of lives to confront the most extreme sorrows with courage, and motivates the mightiest of offices to humbly heed lessons in compassion.”

Clients of mine have found that, with the freedom of writing poetry, memories have been unlocked and reading them to me has been incredibly powerful. They use their writing as a way of restoring the lost freshness of their words and giving their stories, both past and present, a new form. It gives me a touchstone from which to discuss and relate to their memories in a language that has come from a place deep within them. I have a catalogue of poems, each preciously stored away, with some yet to be used.They are lying in wait for, the moment where their poignancy will be entirely relevant, and carry my client to distant places on the wings of words so generously written and shared by others. In the meantime I gift you this one.

The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then, like a hand in the dark,
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.
In the silence that follows
a great line,
you can feel Lazarus,
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

David Whyte

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